Saturday, November 20, 2010

Dating 101

This past week, we have been discussing dating in our sophomore lesson. I like teaching this topic quite a bit because I always learn something about the Chinese student’s ideas toward dating, while simultaneously being forced to confront and explain America’s dating culture.

The students’ own experience of dating varies greatly from class to class, row to row, and desk to desk. In one class, for example, I have a student who has professed to have already had 16 boyfriends (she’s 20.) Another student, when asked to discuss if she’d ever been on a date with someone she couldn’t stand laughed and said, “Of course not; We don’t date.”

So, some students still think the idea of a boyfriend is comical while some have already familiarized themselves quite ambitiously with the dating world.

Here are a few things that blow students away about dating culture in America:

a. That it’s common for people to start dating in High School.

b. That not all dating couples are having sex.

c. That some people do wait until marriage to have sex.

d. That we don’t have to know someone for 6 months to a year before dating them.

e. That some couples will take turns paying for the meal when they are dating (this is a guess for me.)

f. That the average American man will have 7 sexual partners in his life and the average American woman will have 4. (This seemed high and I cursed American morals when I wrote this statistic on the board.)

After talking to my team-mates about the lesson, I decided to also introduce the “True Love Waits” campaign to the students. I explained what it means and then said that some people will sign a card when they are adolescents saying they will wait to have sex until marriage. I think the students had never heard of something like this before. A lot of their dating information comes from sex-laden shows like Desperate Housewives and Gossip Girls. One curious student yelled out, “What do you think about "True Love Waits?”

“I agree with it!” I responded. “And so my number of partners is still 0 because I’m not married yet.”

The students stared at me awkwardly, seeing me through a new lens. And a couple of students, I fear, were also counting their own numbers. At this moment, I was aware of the sensitive nature of the topic, so I quickly said, “And you can talk to me more outside of class about this topic because it’s a little embarrassing to discuss.” So far, no takers to bring it up again, but we will just wait and see.

It’s no wonder as some of them are very shy even about dating someone. I have seen a student walking down the street, holding hands with her boyfriend, but when she saw me, she quickly let go of his hand (as if I might not have seen it.) Another freshman student told my team-mate that she heard horrid rumors that some of her classmates were “kissing each other with tongue.”

Unfortunately, this innocence seems lost a little bit more each year as students progress from freshman to seniors. By the time they are juniors and seniors, I guess about half of them will have boyfriends / girlfriends and some of them will live off campus, sharing a cheap room with their boyfriend. Also, it’s my understanding that some junior and senior girls become mistresses for wealthy business men in the city. I know we also have this phenomena in America, but for some reason, it outrages me more here knowing the innocence that most of the students start with and the moral filth that seems to sneak in so quickly.

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